Becoming an entrepreneur wasn’t part of Desiree Stolar’s plan. A brand strategy and market research consultant, Desiree (MBA 2015) expected to hone her skills at HBS and then return to the field she loved. That all changed when her the startup she developed during her first year, Unshrinkit, took off last spring.

What did you do before coming to HBS?

Before HBS I served as a brand strategy and market research consultant for retail, media and technology firms. For about five years, I thoroughly enjoyed advising clients on topics ranging from brand extensions and store launches to market segmentations and audience development strategies. In 2012, I yearned for a complete change of pace. I moved from LA to DC and took a role within Marriott’s portfolio brand strategy group to help with the Marriott Rewards program. I would have stayed there had I not received a “yes” from Harvard Business School!

What are you planning to do after HBS and why did you decide to make that move?

I am joining my own startup after graduation. We created a product called Unshrinkit (www.unshrinkit.com) which helps relax the wool fibers in sweaters, hats, scarves, etc. The end result? You can finally unshrink that favorite wool sweater- or at least feel less panicked the next time you do! The company has enjoyed fantastic sales and external buy-in (thanks Today Show!) so it’s been a labor of love. It’s been particularly rewarding to continue doing brand development, marketing strategy and consumer insights, but for a company that I helped launch. This is a unique opportunity (with a short window) to make Unshrinkit the next must-have product for every laundry room across the US. I’m looking forward to the next “sweater season.”

Did you come to HBS with the plan to go into a different career after graduation?

Not really! I anticipated I would be joining a large brand company in the media or retail space immediately after graduation. However, I am most definitely giving myself space to best position our startup venture. I have to credit HBS for that because it prompted me to realize I could likely do great brand work at a wide range of companies, regardless of their stage or history.

Can you tell us about how you were exposed to entrepreneurship at HBS? Did you imagine you’d be working on a startup?

The Harvard i-Lab has been the entrepreneurial destination for me. I discovered the space early as a first year student when we would have random meetings there for FIELD 1. Every moment, room and resource within the first floor iLab center has been thoughtfully designed to assist entrepreneurs. The center has truly enabled me and others to be our best possible entrepreneur. The i-Lab and a few supportive HBS faculty members made entrepreneurship a reality for me.

Why do you think so many people pivot their careers after business school?

You are exposed to different industries and career paths as you listen to your fellow classmates, professors, guests and speakers. You start to explore unanticipated opportunities and challenge yourself to do unfamiliar things. Plus, there is a sense that after two years of intense learning and thoughtful reflection, sometimes the right path is not to go back to where you started.

How can students get to know about different industries and job functions at HBS?

If a role or career interests you, pursue it via HBS clubs, independent projects or internships. I saw several people get a leg up on a new career path by taking a leadership role in a club or helping a company via an internship. Also, career coaches in your desired field are a great resource.

Has the alumni network impacted your job search?

Absolutely – I reached out to HBS alumni in my respective city, joined the regional alumni group early and connected with alumni working with consumer-driven brands.

What’s your best advice to someone coming to HBS who is considering a career change?

From Day 1, orient your time, energy and mental space to where you want to be.

Note: In November of 2015 unshrinkit appeared on Shark Tank and received a $150,000 investment from Mark Cuban.

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